Chesapeake Bay Gets a D+

Tuesday, Dec 28, 2010  |  Updated 12:00 PM EDT
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Chesapeake Bay Gets a D+

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NORTH BEACH, MD - AUGUST 03: A Blue Heron walks along the rocks as the early morning sun is reflected over the Chesapeake Bay August 3, 2006 in North Beach, Maryland. Temperatures in the Washington, DC area are expected to reach the upper ninties. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The murky waters of the Chesapeake Bay still do not make the grade, according to a new report.

There are a few indicators pointing to slight improvement of the waterway's ecological health, but according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a lot of problems remain.

"The good news is that the Chesapeake Bay is getting better," William C. Baker, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's president said, "The bad news is it's still a system out of balance."

 The foundation was formed 40 years ago as an environmental watchdog, with the goal of protecting the Bay and its tributaries from environmental degradation.

Their recently released "State of the Bay" reports serves as a report card, grading the Bay on 13 separate measures of environmental health.

On the bright side, many aquatic species are healthy.  The Bay got an 'A' for its striped bass population, which the Foundation says is large and thriving.  The 343 million blue crabs estimated to live in the waters is double the population from two years ago, and earned a 'B+' mark in the report.

Other species continue to struggle.  Despite aggressive oyster planting programs in 2008, the numbers remain low.  Shad, once a plentiful species in the region, remain largely absent, except in portions of the Potomac River.

Pollution really brought down the Bay's overall score.  Blooms of algae created severe dead zones in the spring of 2010.  The algal blooms are fed by pollution in the water.  Nitrogen and phosphorous remain high, which also contribute to the algal blooms.  For water clarity, the Foundation gave the Bay an 'F.'

The Foundation created a point system ranging from 0 to 100, with the highest score representing a pristine environment like the one settler John Smith would have enountered in the 17th century.

The 2010 report gives the water system a score of 31, what they call a 'D+.'

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